The future of travel? It's regenerative.
COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our everyday life. Whilst some changes are short term, others may stay with us much longer... one of those areas that may have been irreversibly altered is the travel industry. So what happens when you pair an increase in awareness around climate change with a global pandemic? How can we travel more sustainably in 2021?
Travel, how much difference does it make?
It’s a fact many of us are familiar with; CO2 emissions from the aviation industry decreased immensely in March, April and May of this year. But how much difference does travel make to global CO2 emissions? A 2018 study published in Nature Climate Change showed that tourism accounts for 8% of the global emissions, with flying accounting for a majority share. According to BBC, the daily air traffic decreased by 75% which led up to a 60% decrease in CO2 emissions from this sector. We are still waiting on the final verdict on 2020’s total CO2 emissions, but some are estimating that we may be on track to make our 7.6% reduction target.
When it comes to our individual emissions, reducing our flights are one of the areas where choices can have a huge impact. Popular website ShamePlane helps you calculate how much arctic ice a return flight can melt, then compares it to other lifestyle choices (spoiler alert, it’s not great). As an example, a return flight from Paris to Chicago results in 2.8 times the emissions saved by going vegetarian for an entire year.
How has the industry responded?
Last year, 67% of people polled in the UK strongly supported limiting air travel, and the demand for sustainable travel is taking-off, with Booking.com sharing that 55% of global travellers report being more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago. Travel/tourism organisations are responding by taking their first steps to restructure the industry in a sustainable way. According to NY Times, several nonprofit organisations have joined the Future of Tourism coalition; with the main goal being to place destination needs at the centre of tourism's future.
By placing the needs of the destination at the forefront, regenerative travel can flourish. What’s regenerative travel? It’s all about leaving a place in a better state than when you found it. Let’s face it, we are at a point where we shouldn't only counterbalance our previous actions, we should be looking for ways to make real improvements.
One success story of regenerative travel is the development of Playa Viva, a small resort south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. When tourists come to this resort, their experience includes the beach, turtle sanctuary and the Playa Viva farm. To reach this resort, you would have to make your way to Juluchuca, the small town that acts as a gateway to the property. Typically, this small town may see only very little profit from having a resort so close by. But with this resort, there is a 2% fee added to any stay and this extra fee funds a trust that invests in community development so that not both the resort and the locals in Juluchuca can benefit.
The Traveler’s Choice
The travel industry seeks to make a profit, and it will be the demands of planet-conscious customers, perhaps combined with a little extra regulation, that cause large changes to evolve. One major adjustment that travellers can make is choosing how often and how far they travel.
COVID-19 has forced many travellers to explore their own backyards more with travel restrictions in place, meaning we’ve seen the bloom of a few specialist land-based slow-travel companies around the world step-up to meet this demand - such as UK start-up Byway. Byway helps customers ‘discover the world by travelling through it, not flying over it', promoting sustainable options such as ferry, bus and train - and according to Save A Train, ditching cars for train travel can result in 80% less greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre.
What do you think? Ready to give regenerative travel a go? Curious to explore slow travel train-based options? Join the conversation via our Instagram channel and feel free to get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org